OGGOA Caption Contest: Fathead for 10,000

On Wednesday, our @OnlyGators Twitter account surpassed the milestone of earning the readership of 10,000 followers. As promised, OGGOA has acquired a prize worth 10,000 pennies ($100) to award to the winner of another one of our caption contests.

If you like FREE SWAG and think you have a good sense of humor – this is the contest for you! E-MAIL your funniest caption to the picture along with your Twitter username to us at contest@onlygators.com for the chance to win a FREE Florida Gators Fathead of your choice! There will be ONE WINNER, but you are encouraged to submit multiple captions in order to increase your chances of winning.

NOTE: You must be following @OnlyGators on Twitter in order to win.

OGGOA has given away multiple Florida Gators DVDs, a Florida Field rug, Game Day purse, Into the Swamp book, pieces of Gators art, T Bow Towels, Gillette Pro Fusion razors, a Turlington Scarf and other goodies throughout our 19 months of existence. There are a number of other giveaways coming up in the near future, so stay tuned!

Best of luck to everyone!

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5/10: Donovan introduces his new assistants

Having now filled his depleted coaching staff following the departure of all three of his assistants, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Tuesday to introduce new coaches John Pelphrey, Norm Roberts and Matt McCall. Below are some choice notes and quotes from the press conference and media availabilities.

BILLY DONOVAN

» Forwards sophomore Erik Murphy and freshman Cody Larson remain indefinitely suspended from the team after being (at the time) arrested for third-degree burglary. “[I want] to wait to see what actually happens. There’s a lot of things they’ve got to go through. Them getting through this and finding out exactly what they’re being charged with and what’s going to happen. Once it happens, then me stepping in to react here, I’ll do. I’m disappointed with what’s happened. Once it gets resolved and once I find out what the resolution is, I can react from there.”

» Team manager Josh Adel was not involved in the activities as initially cited by police. “There was a perception that Josh Adel was ‘the lookout.’ That wasn’t the case.”

» Florida will not be going to another country to play as initially planned during the summer. Donovan said freshman center Patric Young and signee guard Brad Beal have invitations to tryout for USA Basketball in June and July. Additionally, signee forward Walter Pitchford has to go through the NCAA Clearinghouse, the legal situation has to be resolved and the July recruiting period is important.

» On the dedication of McCall: “You want to have guys that bleed orange and blue. [John] is a Gator. Matt McCall more so than anybody else out there [is a Gator]. The University of Florida really means something to him. When you look at great programs across the country, it is the pride that somebody has inside their program that really matters. For Matt being a young guy, he lives and breathes the profession, recruiting and what goes into it.”

JOHN PELPHREY

» On returning to Florida: “It’s a blessing to have a chance [to come back here]. He’s been such a big part of my life. My focus right now is on my faith, on my family and on my Florida. If I can focus on those things, then I have a chance to be at my best and be a part of a coaching team that has a chance to bring out the best in Billy and hopefully our players.”

» On Donovan bringing out the best in others: “Everybody understands how great a coach he is, how good at recruiting he is, but when you get a chance to be around him over an extended period of time, you understand he’s just a great human being. He’s hardworking. He’s a normal guy. He has no idea he’s a hall of fame coach. He does not know that and that’s pretty cool. In life, success changes people. It doesn’t for Billy. One season ends, he starts over evaluating, looking and trying to figure out a way to be better the next day. When you get a chance to spend time with him, you see it’s real, you see it’s genuine because that’s the way he is every single day.”

» On the unique opportunity to return to Gainesville, FL: “I don’t see myself having taken this opportunity anywhere else. You’re talking about a guy that there’s only one place in America that, after two and a half weeks, he would have gone back to work. I’m pretty fortunate. [Knocks on the table] You don’t have a job and then two and a half weeks later you get the only one you would take? I think it’s a miracle. I think the good lord had his hand on it.”

» On if this is a temporary job for him: “I was here before the renovations to the O’Dome. I was here before the practice facility was built. I was here before the first run to the national championship game. I’m a little bit invested. Any leader wants the guys in the organization to be invested. For me, this is not just another place. This is a special place. […] I knew this was right.”

NORM ROBERTS

» On why he chose the Gators: “There were three things that were really important to me about the next job I would take. I had opportunities to take some Division I jobs, but they were jobs I would say would not lead to much afterwards. I wanted to coach at a high level, recruit at a high level and, for my family, try to go somewhere where we would enjoy living. […] I wanted to work for a guy I really respected. Especially when you’re a head coach and you’re coming back in, that’s what you really want to do. I’ve respected what Coach Donovan has done for quite some time.”

» On why Donovan is such a good coach: “He is a tireless recruiter. He’s done a great job in recruiting and the different players that he’s recruited all over the country. The other thing Coach Donovan does that is paramount is he does a great job recruiting players. That player may have a specific skill set that he’s really good at. And then what he does is, he allows that player to play to his strengths and then encompasses that into the team as well as developing his weaknesses. That’s very unique.”

» On the players he will be coaching: “A lot of the guys I knew already [from recruiting], so it made it a little bit more comfortable.”

» On going from head coach to assistant: “Both me and Pel understand the business; this is a new opportunity for us, an exciting opportunity for us. The one thing you try to do in this business is build great relationships and have people respect what you do. We left both those places [St. John’s, Arkansas] in a lot better shape than they were when we got there.”

MATT McCALL

» On his responsibilities right now: “From a recruiting standpoint, Coach Pelphrey and Coach Roberts have really honed in on the 2012 guys. For me, I’m trying to cast a huge net out there for 2013 and 2014.”

» McCall said he has a lot of in-state connections and will help the other assistants recruit for 2012 while also looking ahead toward the future as it is important to develop relationships as young as possible.

» On what returning to UF means to him: “To be able to say ‘Matt McCall, assistant coach at the University of Florida’ is exciting. I bleed orange and blue, like Coach Donovan told you. I grew up here coming to games, always wanted to be a ball boy when I was little. This is the profession I chose. For me, it’s more than just the University of Florida. It’s Coach Donovan, one of the best coaches in the game.”

Former Gators F Dan Werner offered plea deal

Arrested in the early morning on April 12 in Gainesville, FL for driving under the influence, former Florida Gators forward Dan Werner has been offered a plea deal by the State Attorney’s Office and is expected to accept it sooner than later.

According to First Coast News, Werner’s punishment would include one year of supervised probation, a six-month license suspension, $500 fine and 50 hours of community service. He must also take and pass a DUI education course and could have his charged reduced to reckless driving.

Werner, who played professional basketball last season for Virtus Bologna of Italian Serie A, was pulled over in a Silver Kia with a tail light out and its high beams on. He told the officer he was driving for his intoxicated girlfriend but failed field sobriety tests when administered. Werner also submitted to a breath test and blew below the legal limit (0.08) twice but was arrested anyway.

First Coast News obtained a video copy of the DUI arrest from the SAO in Gainesville:

The Gainesville Sun reported last month that Werner admitted to playing beer pong and “drinking at least two drinks containing whiskey” at some point during the evening.

Freshman RB Blakely transferring from Florida

Florida Gators freshman running back Mike Blakely has decided to transfer, becoming the third offensive player to do so under new head coach Will Muschamp.

“Mike has come to the conclusion that the University of Florida is not where he wants to play football,” Muschamp said in a school release. “We wish him the best of luck.”

Blakely, who graduated from high school early and enrolled in January, did not practice in the spring after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

“Everyone at Florida has been very supportive of me in my time here and I’m thankful for the experience that I had, but I’ve made a decision to continue my college football career somewhere else,’’ Blakely said in the same release.

His departure leaves the Gators with five scholarship running backs for next season including senior Jeff Demps, redshirt senior Chris Rainey, junior Mike Gillislee and sophomores Mack Brown and Trey Burton, according to the team roster.

UF initially beat out Auburn for Blakely’s commitment in October 2010.

“In my heart, I felt like I made the best decision,” he said after making his announcement.

Four Florida players have now left the program since Muschamp’s arrival.

Wide receivers redshirt freshman Chris Dunkley and freshman Javares McRoy both decided to transfer in April. Dunkley appears headed to South Florida, while McRoy will join his brother at Texas Tech.

Senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from the team on April 26 after being arrested for possession of marijuana for the second time in 90 days. He is considering a transfer as well but a destination is currently unknown.

Photo Credit: Thomas Bender/Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Seven Gators placed in first Rivals250 for 2012

Released Tuesday afternoon, the first Rivals250 for the class of 2012 is filled with players verbally committed to play for the Florida Gators next season. Though only one Florida commit was in the company’s Rivals100 released on Monday, six more are considered to be in the top 250 recruits in the nation.

Below is a breakdown of where the Gators’ commits are ranked:

No. 49 – Jessamen Dunker, OT (Boynton Beach, FL)
At 6’6” and 315 lbs., Dunker is listed as the No. 12 overall offensive lineman in the class and the third-best in the state of Florida. He has already accepted an invitation to play in the 2012 Under Armour All-American Game and is rated a 5.9/6.1*.

No. 122 – Mike Davis, RB (Stone Mountain, GA)
The second running back to commit for 2012, the 5’9” 192 lbs. Davis was given a 5.8/6.1 ranking by Rivals and is listed No. 12 at his position in the nation and No. 1 in the state of Georgia. He recently earned a Most Valuable Player award at the Nike Football Training Camp in Athens, GA.

No. 157 – Matt Jones, RB (Seffner, FL)
Florida’s first running back commit, the 6’2” 200 lbs. Jones was heavily recruited by the Gators and is listed as the 16th best rusher in the country. Rated 5.8/6.1, he is ranked as the No. 3 back in the state.

No. 197 – Colin Thompson, TE (Warminster, PA)
The top player at his position in Pennsylvania, Thompson is 6’5” 225 lbs., rated 5.8/6.1 and ranked as the No. 6 tight end in the nation. Florida’s most recent commitment, he has accepted an invitation to play in the Under Armour game. (No other tight end was ranked higher than No. 68 overall.)

No. 218 – Jeremi Powell, LB (Largo, FL)
A 5.8/6.1 rated player like his future teammates, Powell is ranked as the No. 24 overall linebacker in 2012 but No. 2 in the state of Florida. At 6’2″ and 200 lbs., he is the Gators’ only commitment at the position.

No. 225 – Dante Phillips, DT (Venice, FL)
The No. 17 defensive tackle prospect in the nation, Phillips is 6’6” and 268 lbs. and is becoming a force in the middle. He is also rated 5.8/6.1 and listed as the No. 2 player at his position in the state.

No. 240 – Latroy Pittman, WR (Citra, FL)
At 6’1” and 190 lbs., Pittman may not have the size of an elite prospect, but his 5.8/6.1 ranking puts him up there talent-wise. He is the 36th-ranked wide receiver in his class and No. 6 in the state of Florida.

Check out the entire Rivals250

*Rivals’s ranking system grades prospects from 6.1-4.9:

6.1 Franchise Player; considered one of the elite prospects in the country, generally among the nation’s top 25 players overall; deemed to have excellent pro potential; high-major prospect

6.0-5.8 All-American Candidate; high-major prospect; considered one of the nation’s top 300 prospects; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team

5.7-5.5 All-Region Selection; considered among the region’s top prospects and among the top 750 or so prospects in the country; high-to-mid-major prospect; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team

5.4-5.0 Division I prospect; considered a mid-major prospect; deemed to have limited pro potential but definite Division I prospect; may be more of a role player

4.9 Sleeper; no Rivals.com expert knew much, if anything, about this player; a prospect that only a college coach really knew about

Gators Murphy, Larson, Adel get charges reduced

Three members of the Florida Gators basketball team were arrested on April 10 for burglary in St. Augustine, FL. Forwards sophomore Erik Murphy and freshman Cody Larson were caught allegedly breaking into a car, and team manager Joshua Adel was arrested for principal to burglary because he allegedly served as a lookout. No items were reported missing from the vehicle in the attempted theft.

One month later, all three men have had their respective charges lessened by the state with two of them still facing legal action, according to The Gainesville Sun‘s Kevin Brockway who spoke with a representative at the State Attorney’s Office.

Larson and Murphy now have second-degree misdemeanor charges for criminal trespassing (instead of third-degree felonies for burglary), while Adel’s charge was not just reduced, it was thrown out altogether.

“[Larson and Murphy] have paid restitution to the victims to get a headlight fixed,” spokesperson Shannon Peters told the Sun. “The charges reflect that they tried to go into another person’s car without permission. [Adel] was charged as being the lookout when the evidence showed that wasn’t the case. He was, in fact, discouraging them.”

Brockway also reports that a court date has not yet been set for Murphy and Larson to enter their respective pleas.

Florida softball sweeps Tennessee, wins SEC East; baseball falls to Arkansas in road series

It was a special weekend for Florida Gators softball, which sent its seniors off with a two-day celebration concluding in the team’s fourth-straight Southeastern Conference East division title. The baseball team, on the other hand, fought through a three-game road series that left their chances at a regular season title up for grabs.

SOFTBALL

Just two days after a hard-fought 1-0 victory at home against Florida State, No. 4 Florida softball was just as scrappy against the No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers on Friday, breaking a 3-3 tie with a solo home run from lead-off hitter freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) in the bottom of the seventh inning to earn a 4-3 victory. Senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher drew the start for the Gators but was pulled after giving up three earned runs and only striking out two batters in 4.2 innings. Florida was down 3-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth but rallied with two outs to tie the game. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers came on for the final 2.1 innings, striking out four and only allowing a single hit to earn the victory.

The Gators took advantage of the Volunteers early in Saturday’s game and held on to a two-run lead earned in the first frame to win the series with a 2-0 victory. With one out, senior second baseman Aja Paculba (2-3, R) singled to left field; senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R) followed her by stepping up to the plate and smacking a homer to center field on a full count for the game’s only runs. Brombacher (3.1 IP, 2 K, 3 H) once again earned the start for Florida, but Rogers (3.2 IP, 4 K, 3 H) threw the second half of the contest to earn her second win over Tennessee. Saturday also marked the first half of UF softball’s Senior Day. Brombacher and catcher Tiffany DeFelice were honored prior to the game, which resulted in the team’s 24th shutout win on the year.

Putting everything together on Sunday, the Gators (47-8, 21-7 SEC) started hot out of the gate and routed the Volunteers (44-10, 20-8 SEC) 7-2 to conclude regular season action with nine-straight victories while simultaneously capturing the SEC East division title. Rogers (30-5) tossed a complete game, allowing single runs in the first and fifth innings on a total of five hits. Down 1-0 after the first three outs, Florida scored two runs in the bottom of the first and added another in the second. The Gators then poured on four runs in the fourth including a lead-off dinger from designated player Kelsey Horton (2-3, HR, RBI, R) on the first pitch she saw. Also performing well Sunday were junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2-4, 2 R), Paculba (2-3, RBI, 2 R, BB), Bruder (1-3, RBI, R, BB) and sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte (2-4, 2 RBI, R). Florida honored Bruder, Paculba and first baseman Megan Bush before the game as the second half of the school’s senior day festivities. The day ended with the Gators not only capturing their fourth-straight SEC East crown (fifth overall) but also having won 17 of their last 18 games.

With their regular season now complete, UF has earend the No. 2 overall seed in the 2011 SEC tournament, which they will begin on Thursday with a first-round game against No. 7-seed Auburn. The game will air live on ESPNU at 1:30 p.m.

BASEBALL

No. 4 Florida baseball saw its dominant seven-game winning streak come to an end Thursday in Fayetteville, AR as they blew a 3-1 lead through six innings to fall 4-3 to the No. 18 Arkansas Razorbacks. After scattering hits through his first five innings, starter sophomore RHP Hudson Randall (8-2) allowed a triple and home run in back-to-back at-bats in the bottom of the sixth that let Arkansas tie the game at three runs apiece. Randall gave up his second homer of the game two innings later, and the Razorbacks escaped the first game of the series with a victory. Three Gators – junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R), senior 2B Josh Adams (2-3, R) and junior LF Daniel Pigott (2-2, RBI) – notched pairs of hits in the contest, but the team simply could not capitalize when it counted.

Florida fought from behind all night on Friday and eventually fell to Arkansas 5-3, dropping the road series after the first two games. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (7-2) lost his second game of the season after allowing three earned runs (four total) in just four innings of work. The Gators trailed from the first inning on, taking their only lead at 2-1 in the third before the Razorbacks scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to jump back ahead 4-2.

Florida (36-12, 18-6 SEC) got back to its winning ways on Saturday, rallying for three runs in the top of the seventh inning to slay Arkansas (32-15, 12-12 SEC) 5-3; it was the Gators’ first road win against the Razorbacks since 2005 (eight games). Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (5.2 IP, 6 K, 3 ER, 6 H) shut out Arkansas through the first four innings of the game and allowed Florida to take an early 2-0 lead. The Razorbacks would respond with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth, but sophomore RHP Austin Maddox came in to get the final out and stop the bleeding for the Gators. Florida responded with a fierce rally that scored three in the seventh. Three-straight singles ending with one from Tucker (1-4, RBI, R) scored sophomore SS Nolan Fontana (2-5, RBI, 2 R) from third to tie the game and another up the middle by Pigott (2-4, 2 RBI, R) allowed two more runs to cross the plate for the Gators. Maddox (2-0) tossed the final three innings, striking out one and walking one as Florida held on for the victory.

The Gators remain in the hunt for the SEC title but have two more series (on the road against Vanderbilt and at home against Kentucky) to play along with two non-conference games (home vs. North Florida and Jacksonville) before the regular season concludes. Vanderbilt leads the SEC with a 19-5 record, but Florida and South Carolina are both just a game back at 18-6.

Florida lacrosse falls in 2011 ALC Championship

In only their second year of existence, No. 4 Florida Gators lacrosse was hoping to do the unthinkable, not only win the American Lacrosse Conference regular season crown but also take home the 2011 ALC Championship by sweeping through the tournament in which they earned the No. 1 overall seed. Instead Florida (15-3, 5-0 ALC) fell 10-9 on Saturday to the No. 2-seed and No. 3-ranked Northwestern Wildcats (17-2, 3-2 ALC), who they defeated 13-11 just three weeks earlier.

Squaring off at the VU Lacrosse Complex in Nashville, TN, the Gators hoped to knock the Wildcats off their pedestal. Since the tournament began, Northwestern has been the only victors, and Florida failed in their opportunity to take the crown.

Up three goals, 8-5, with 13:17 remaining, the Gators allowed the Wildcats to go on a 5-0 scoring run to jump ahead 10-8 with 2:22 left on the clock. Sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns scored unassisted with 1:25 to go, but an illegal stick call seconds later took the next possession out of Florida’s hands and allowed Northwestern to hold on for victory.

Sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen, one of the best players in the country and Florida’s leading scorer, was held without a goal and only notched a single point on an assist. Sophomore A Caroline Chesterman led the Gators with three goals, while Bruns and sophomore M Brittany Dashiell each scored a pair of goals.

The Wildcats were led by M Shannon Smith, who scored five goals and delivered two assists for a game-high seven points.

With Northwestern now in their rear view mirror, Florida looks ahead to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. They were awarded the No. 4 overall seed during the NCAA Selection Show Sunday evening and are set to host Stanford in first-round action.

Whether visiting a lacrosse store or even the official Gator SportShop on campus, there is plenty of fantastic Orange & Blue gear that fans can wear to support the team both on campus or on the road. Support the Gators!

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